The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 14, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN - Games different for coaches

MORGANTOWN — With all due apologies, we will take you back now to Friday night in Huntington, to a moment when everything was going wrong for West Virginia, when the football world was about to cave in on its head.

The Mountaineers were looking defeat in the face, the worst defeat they have suffered since Pitt pulled the national championship carpet out from under their feet in 2007 as a four-touchdown underdog in Morgantown.

Let us first let you know that we know what you were thinking at that moment. We know because it was documented in Mike Cassazza’s blog in the Charleston Daily Mail, a blog that he calls “Texts from Marshall Game Day”.

You, the public, text him with brief messages stating your thoughts.

Here’s a few examples when things were at their worst for WVU:

(7:52 PM): Hey, Stew…or Mullen…I knew Owen Schmitt, I saw Owen Schmitt play, and Ryan Clarke (no matter how much I personally like him) is NO Owen Schmitt.

(7:55 PM): Does he get fired if they lose? For real.

(8:02 PM): I’m glad I’m not somewhere that I could get my hands on some whiskey right now…I’d already be in the floor after this mess

(9:24 PM): December 1, 2007

(9:25 PM): I’m crying

(9:28 PM): This is [truly] pathetic…i may not watch another game this season

Get the picture?

And if you think the comments were any different in the press box, forget it? The media, too, was thinking about the absolute total disaster that losing to Marshall would have been for West Virginia.

Or would it have been that bad?

Listen to Coach Bill Stewart on Sunday when asked if a loss like that would have ruined his season?

“Had we lost the game, it’s not the end of the world,” he said.

See, coaches see the world of football differently than fans and, yes, even the guys who get to come to the games for free, have parking provided, get a free meal, all so that they can write about the games people play.

“We play every game to win,” Stewart continued. “I think that if you coach emotional like that and you put all your eggs in one basket for a game and you lose that game, what do you say to your team then? I’m not going to be one of these guys that says ‘It’s our Super Bowl, and it’s a chance to make history, and we’ve got to do this and we’ve got to do that.’”

Now here’s the deal. When you think about that, he’s right, especially early in the season.

Go back to that 2007 game against Pitt. Forgotten is that WVU had lost a game earlier in the season, a league game to South Florida, yet had come back to put itself in position to win the national title. Was it harder because of that loss? Sure, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

“I remember in 2007, we went down and got beat at South Florida and yet we came back with a chance to beat Pitt and were a 28-point favorite to beat them and play for the national championship,” Stewart said. “Now, lo and behold, who’d have thought that night in South Florida we’d even have a chance to get back into the Top 10, let alone the top two?

“Heck, I know my friends in Virginia Tech will come back and have a good year because I know what kind of men they are and what kind of players those kids are down there. These people wrote Kansas off, they got beat, but they just turned around and beat the 15th-ranked team in the country.”

Coaches understand that and know they can’t lose their team two or three weeks into the season because they lost a game, be it a difficult upset like Virginia Tech losing to James Madison or be it losing an early-season conference game.

Pitt Coach Dave Wannstedt, who pulled off the 2007 upset of West Virginia, said on the Big East coaches’ conference call Monday that he wouldn’t even so much as bring up that such a loss isn’t the end of the world to his team, if it happened to him.

“Coaches may talk about it,” he said, “but with these kids you’re trying to keep them improving and focusing game to game. The only thing we want on our kids minds is beating Miami.”

Perhaps, so, but in this uncontrolled media world where everything is exaggerated, be it in the social media or the mainstream, where competition forces outlets to turn a pimple into a fatal disease, it is hard to do that.

“I know you guys and gals do not like when I call this sensationalism.  I don’t know how to say it any plainer. This ‘IT’, fast-paced internet world sensationalism is just for selling stories, I guess. We’ve got a long haul to go, we’ve got 10 more games and hopefully if we play well in these final 10 we’ll get 11 games and that will give us 13 on the year, and that’s my approach and I’m not changing.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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